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Ex-rowing partner hails ‘next level’ impact of Glover’s Olympic return

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Among those willing on Helen Glover and Polly Swann as they finished fourth in the Olympic women’s pairs rowing, few were more tense than Heather Stanning, Glover’s former gold medal-winning partner.

“It was absolutely nerve-racking,” said Stanning, whose own son was born two weeks after Glover (who already had a young son) gave birth to twins in January 2020, and who hung up her oars after the pair’s Rio triumph.

Related: No fairytale finish for Helen Glover after the mother of all comebacks

“I’m just so proud of her for getting to that start line,” she added, revealing she got up at 1.15am to make she definitely didn’t miss it.

“Helen is the epitome of determination, motivation and inspiration all wrapped up together,” she said. “She is the most phenomenal athlete, and when she puts her mind to something, she will keep going until she achieves what she needs to. Her kids have got the most amazing mum.

“I am super proud of what she’s done. It’s not been easy, although she sometimes makes it look easy. The logistics of juggling family life and being a full-time athlete, there is a reason why we have never had a British female row internationally at this level since becoming a mum, because it is challenging. How do you be part of a team sport when your priorities at home are very different?”

Heather Stanning (right) with Helen Glover as they show off their gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Heather Stanning (right) with Helen Glover as they show off their gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Photograph: MIke Egerton/PA

“And just life in the last 12 months, with Covid, has been different. So it is a phenomenal journey.”

Stanning and Glover had been in regular contact, over FaceTime due to Covid, throughout Glover’s preparations. “I haven’t spoken to her since she’s been in Tokyo because I know, certainly when I’ve done the Games with her, we have both liked to just lock ourselves into a little bubble. But I spoke to her just before she left.”

She added: “I can’t wait to give her a long overdue hug.”

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Speaking at a British Rowing event, at Bristol Ariel rowing club, to encourage women, and new mums in particular, to look to indoor and outdoor rowing to regain fitness, Stanning said it had been “humbling” to see the impact she and Glover had following their gold medals in London and Rio. Glover continues to be cited as the most inspirational figure among male and female rowers, according to British Rowing research.

“This is the next level; the impact Helen has had on mums to think: ‘You know what, take a bit of time for yourself, do something for you.’ Becoming a mum myself I’ve realised you have got to look after yourself to be the best parent you can be.”

Helen Rowbotham, British Rowing’s director of rowing community and strategy, said of Glover: “She is an absolute inspiration, and of course there will be an element of disappointment, but certainly we’re incredibly proud of everything she has achieved. To do what she has during the last year after having twins, to come back to an Olympic final, and to perform the way they did – her and Polly – is just absolutely amazing.”

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